Capitol Updates

Friday, April 9, 2021

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  • ACTION ALERT: Education Lottery Bill Up For Debate Next Week
  • Success! - Bill Limiting State Aid Impact of COVID-19 to be Heard
  • Review of Education-Related Priority Bills

ALERT: Education Lottery Bill Up For Debate Next Week

Next week, LB529 will be heard during Select File debate. The bill, introduced by Sen. Lynne Walz and prioritized by the Education Committee, is a comprehensive bill determining the allocation of state lottery dollars. It is a crucial, must-have piece of legislation that will benefit both current and future teachers.

The bill addresses many important issues, including the permanent extension of the Nebraska Opportunity Grants that help 13,000 students as they continue into postsecondary education. Funding for distance education incentives, expanded learning opportunities, and loans for college credit testing fees are among many other great programs included in the bill for K-12 students. LB529 provides much-needed support for the teaching profession through the Excellence in Teaching Program and the Dual-Credit Education programs, as well as behavioral awareness and intervention training.

With the events and conditions of this past year, there is a great need for mental health support services in our public schools. LB529 provides for the creation and support of the Behavioral Intervention Training and Teacher Support Act. Starting this fall, Educational Service Units across the state would ensure annual behavioral awareness training is available in every school building. ESU staff will develop, implement and administer a statewide support system to ensure teachers and other school staff receive that training.

Starting with the 2023-24 school year, school staff will receive such training every three years. Each school will designate a behavioral awareness “point of contact” and will maintain a registry of local mental health and counseling services. Administrators, teachers, support staff – and most importantly, our students – know this training is very much needed.

LB529 addresses the Praxis Core admission test fees. Passing this test is required for admission to all Nebraska colleges of education. The fee for the test is expensive – $150 to take all three parts of the test at once, or to take the math, reading and writing portions separately, the cost is $90 for each test for a total of $270. LB529 would provide a one-time loan for the cost of the test to cash-strapped college students who wish to pursue education as a career. We should not bar potential educators from the profession because of the cost of an admission test.

Finally, and this may be most important, those college students who work for a full semester as a student teacher – a pre-service teacher intern in the verbiage of LB529 – will be eligible to have $1,000 in their outstanding Attracting Excellence to Teaching Program loan debt forgiven. That would be a small token of encouragement for those educators-to-be who have, in most cases, worked as unpaid full-time teachers for four months.

ACTION NEEDED! It is important you contact your state senator immediately. Ask them to strongly support and advance LB529. Please let them know you support the bill because it provides financial aid for student teachers, provides grant funding for Praxis Core exams, and provides behavioral mental health training for schools. Find your senator here.

It is important to contact these senators and urge them to support LB529:

Sen. Joni Albrecht               jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov         (402) 471-2716

Sen. Bruce Bostelman       bbostelman@leg.ne.gov   (402) 471-2719

Sen. Tom Brewer                 tbrewer@leg.ne.gov           (402) 471-2628

Sen. Tom Briese                 tbriese@leg.ne.gov             (402) 471-2631

Sen. Curt Friesen               cfriesen@leg.ne.gov           (402) 471-2630

Sen. Suzanne Geist           sgeist@leg.ne.gov               (402) 471-2731

Sen. Ben Hansen               bhansen@leg.ne.gov         (402) 471-2728

Sen. Dan Hughes               dhughes@leg.ne.gov         (402) 471-2805

Sen. John Lowe                   jlowe@leg.ne.gov               (402) 471-2726

Sen. Mike Moser                 mmoser@leg.ne.gov           (402) 471-2715

Sen. Matt Williams               mwilliams@leg.ne.gov       (402) 471-2642

AND… Submit supportive comments online for LB529 – Click here. This new feature on the Nebraska Legislature’s website is intended to encourage public participation. Comments submitted through this portal will be available to all legislators and staff. The comments may be read and/or discussed during hearings and floor debate although they will not be part of the official record. According to the Speaker’s office, there should be no expectation of privacy and these comments will be made available to others upon request.

Bill Limiting State Aid Impact of COVID-19 to be Heard

Last week, we launched a call to action on LB323, a bill that would ensure that budgetary changes caused by the pandemic will not detrimentally impact schools. A significant number of NSEA members contacted Speaker Mike Hilgers requesting that he schedule the bill for debate. That message was heard loud and clear by the Speaker, who confirmed with the NSEA that he will schedule the bill in the next two weeks. This is a win because typically an unprioritized bill such as LB323 is not heard ahead of prioritized ones. Thank you to our NSEA members who take action – it really does make a difference in how legislation is made!

As previously mentioned, the intent of this bill is to address TEEOSA (state aid) calculation issues caused by the pandemic and corresponding data reporting. Specifically, it addresses the early childhood program hours reported, which are used in the calculation of the formula with students and summer school programs going virtual. It also adjusts the transportation allowance to account for pandemic-related transportation costs incurred after in-person learning ended when the pandemic began.

It is important that the bill is passed in order to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the state aid to education formula. Because of the pandemic, a multitude of regular school activity and financial expenses were altered by closures and changes from in-person to remote learning. Without the modifications within LB323, state aid to education would be significantly redistributed among equalized school districts without properly accounting for those changes. State aid would also be reduced by $3.4 million from the failure to recalculate needs within the formula.

Review of Education Related Priority Bills

Final Reading

LB83 (Flood) Change the Open Meetings Act to provide for virtual conferencing

NSEA Position: Neutral

LB322 (Williams) Adopt the School Safety and Security Reporting System Act

NSEA Position: Support

LB400 (Arch) Change requirements related to coverage of telehealth by insurers and Medicaid

NSEA Position: Support

LB487 (Arch) Change insurance coverage provisions for mental health conditions and serious mental illness

NSEA Position: Support

Select File

LB17 (Kolterman) Change actuarial valuation and amortization provisions for certain state retirement systems

NSEA Position: Support

LB88 (Morfeld) Protect free speech rights of student journalists and student media advisers

NSEA Position: Support

LB143 (Kolterman) Require notice to school districts regarding changes in child placement

NSEA Position: Support

LB154 (Wayne) Require tracking of student discipline as prescribed

NSEA Position: Support

LB247 (Pansing Brooks) Create the Mental Health Crisis Hotline Task Force

NSEA Position: Support

LB260 (Hunt) Change provisions relating to good cause for voluntarily leaving employment

NSEA Position: Support

LB273 (Lowe) Change provisions relating to youth rehabilitation and treatment centers

NSEA Position: Support

LB281 (Albrecht) Require child sexual abuse prevention instructional programs for school students and staff

NSEA Position: Support

LB338 (Bostelman) Provide powers and duties for the Public Service Commission regarding broadband services

NSEA Position: Support

LB451 (McKinney) Include characteristics associated with race under the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act

NSEA Position: Support

LB527 (Walz) Change provisions relating to transition services for students with a developmental disability

NSEA Position: Support

LB529 (Walz) Change provisions for the distribution of lottery funds used for education

NSEA Position: Support

LB639 (Day) Adopt the Seizure Safe Schools Act

NSEA Position: Neutral

LB644 (Hansen B.) Adopt the Property Tax Request Act

NSEA Position: Oppose

 

General File

LB 2 (Briese) Change the valuation of agricultural land and horticultural land for certain school district taxes

NSEA Position: Oppose

LB64 (Lindstrom) Change provisions relating to the taxation of social security benefits

NSEA Position: Support

LB108 (McCollister) Change provisions relating to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

NSEA Position: Support

LB132 (DeBoer) Create the School Financing Review Commission

NSEA Position: Support

LB147 (Kolterman) Change provisions relating to retirement systems for Class V school districts

NSEA Position: Support

LB258 (Vargas) Adopt the Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act

NSEA Position: Support

LB298 (McDonnell) Change provisions of the Employment Security Law relating to the disqualification of certain aliens

NSEA Position: Support

LB364 (Linehan) Adopt the Opportunity Scholarships Act and provide tax credits

NSEA Position: Oppose

LB388 (Friesen) Adopt the Nebraska Broadband Bridge Act

NSEA Position: Support

LB396 (Brandt) Adopt the Nebraska Farm-to-School Program Act

NSEA Position: Support

LB408 (Briese) Adopt the Property Tax Request Act

NSEA Position: Oppose

LB428 (HHS) Entitlement of juveniles at youth rehabilitation and treatment centers to receive educational equivalent

NSEA Position: Support

LB432 (REV) Change income tax rates

NSEA Position: Oppose

LB452 (McKinney) Adopt the Financial Literacy Act

NSEA Position: Oppose

LB454 (Friesen) Adopt the School Property Tax Stabilization Act and change the valuation of agricultural land

NSEA Position: Neutral

LB485 (DeBoer) Change provisions relating to child care assistance

NSEA Position: Support

LB528 (Walz) NDE Technical Bill: Change, eliminate, and add provisions relating to education

NSEA Position: Support

LB568 (Pansing Brooks) Change provisions relating to truancy, juvenile courts and compulsory education

NSEA Position: Support

LB630 (Bostar) Provide for a study of the efficacy of commercial air filters in classrooms

NSEA Position: Support

LR11CA (Erdman) Constitutional amendment to require enactment of a consumption tax

NSEA Position: Oppose

In Committee

LB54 (Lathrop) Change immunity for intentional torts under the Political Subdivisions Tort Claims Act

NSEA Position: Support

LB139 (Briese) Adopt the COVID-19 Liability Protection Act

NSEA Position: Neutral

LB488 (Stinner) Change provisions relating to appropriations

NSEA Position: Neutral

Approved by Governor / Speaker

LB14 (Blood) Adopt the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Interstate Compact

NSEA Position: Neutral

LB389 (Sanders) Require the issuance of teaching certificates and permits to military spouses

NSEA Position: Neutral

LR25 (HHS) Provide for the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center Special Oversight Committee

NSEA Position: Support